Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘Unacceptable environmental effects:’ New federal policy restricts thermal coal

Policy puts another roadblock in front of Coalspur Mines and its Alberta Vista mine expansion

The federal government is making it more difficult to develop thermal coal in Canada with a new policy that says all such mines create “unacceptable environmental effects.”

The move erects another roadblock for Coalspur Mines and its Vista mine expansion in Alberta, the only such mine in Canada currently before regulators.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathon Wilkinson said the move was made because of the need to stop burning coal for power — the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

“Phasing out thermal coal is the most critical climate change issue right now,” he said.

The policy, released Friday, does not rule out such development. But approvals will be tough to get.

“The government of Canada considers that any new thermal coal mining projects, or expansions of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects,” it says. “This position will inform federal decision making on thermal coal projects.”

It says the federal cabinet must consider sustainability and climate change in weighing any new projects, regardless of size.

“What we’re saying is this is something that does not fit from a public policy perspective,” Wilkinson said. “A proponent can continue on through the process, but that’s a pretty high bar to surmount.”

Coalspur’s Vista mine expansion project near Hinton, Alta., which would be the largest thermal coal mine in North America, has filed an application to the provincial regulator. Wilkinson has ruled the project should face a federal environmental assessment, although Coalspur is challenging that decision in court.

The company has been informed the new policy will apply to it, Wilkinson said. He added the policy gives more certainty to other companies considering similar projects.

Wilkinson said he believes the new policy lies within federal power despite its impact on natural resources, a provincial jurisdiction.

“We’re comfortable this is something within our purview to do,” he said. “The vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians would think that this is something that’s a no-brainer.”

Canada is a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of countries trying to reduce the use of thermal coal around the globe. Wilkinson said permitting new mines would harm Canada’s efforts in that forum.

“We’ve been the leader in the international community telling other countries that they should be phasing out thermal coal — and then we approve new thermal coal mines? People would say that doesn’t make any sense.”

The new policy does not affect metallurgical coal, the type of coal found in most of the controversial new coal exploration projects in the Alberta foothills.

The federal government has been asked to step in on many of those projects. Wilkinson has until July 1 to decide if he will request a federal assessment for Montem Resource’s Tent Mountain mine.

Wilkinson called emissions from steelmaking a different issue.

“(Thermal coal) is a short-term issue,” he said.

“Our commitment with other countries is to help them phase out (coal) nine years from now. That’s not much time.”

Canada has promised to phase out the burning of coal for power by 2030.

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Community involvement key to safe, reclaimable coal mines: industry scientists

energy sector

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read